Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Kavod is Hebrew for Honour.

Honour, a word which originated in Latin, could mean a host of concepts to many. To some, it means glory, renown, dignity reputation. In Hebrew, however, the language which I, as a Jew, define myself in, it bears those and much more, a lot more.

Hebrew is a language based on the system of roots. As such, in most cases, words that share the same root are related in their meaning.

The root for the Hebrew word Kavod כָּבוֹד   is  כ,ב,ד k,v,d . It is the same root for the word, “heavy,” כָּבֵד, (kaved).  What follows then is that these words are related as they stem from the same root. We generally refer as heavy to something that weighs much and thus has a stronger influence on our lives. Honour is generally given to anyone who bears significance and meaning.

Kaved,“Liver” in Hebrew, is another word that stems from the same root as Kavod. It is that internal organ in our body whose role is to break down the food we eat, a very significant role. It was also discovered in the past that the liver is the heaviest internal part in the human body.

Kavod, appears in the Tanach 119 times. In most cases there, it is used to describe G-d.  In other cases, when it is used to describe humans, it almost always refers to their inner beauty and good qualities. These are the qualities that are the reflection of that spark of G-d, His image, that is in each one of us. Every one of us, therefore, holds the potential to adorn themselves with the title of being Honourable.  We can, through our deeds and behavior, choose to highlight these inner traits or we may choose to ignore and scorn them. Dignity,
the state or quality of being worthy of earning Honour or respect, and integrity are the compass that will dictate and guide us, humans, in choosing the right path for ourselves to be merited and deserving of Honour. That, as Roger Froikin, my mentor, has just reminded me is consistent with our great Jewish ideology and tradition of 3400 years.

This concept is also reinforced in the literature of our sages where the following saying is emphasized.  “Those who run after Kavod, the Kavod evades them…. Those who run away from Kavod, Kavod chases them.
 "הרודף אחר הכבוד הכבוד בורח ממנו, והבורח ממנו ..., הכבוד רודפו"

Again, what that saying implies is that in Judaism, genuine Honour is not external, one which is given for a flaunt of wealth, social or other position or a role. Neither is it one that can be actively sought, demanded or imposed. Rather, it is earned. It is earned for wisdom, honesty and modesty which are expressed through their deeds and behaviour. Therefore, when we witness people for whom all that matters are their title and their affluence yet when asked to engage in a matter that they consider beneath their dignity, we refer to them as players in the game of Honour.

As we enter the Jewish New year of 5778, I express a silent prayer for Am Yisrael, in particular, and the world in general. I pray that this year will bring Peace, unity to our fractured world and above all the earned cloak of  Kavod, Honour, to all.

Shanah Tovah